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How to Disappear
A Memoir for Misfits
Duncan Fallowell

“A strange and wonderful book. Fallowell is a marvelous raconteur who seems incapable of writing a dull sentence.”
—James Magruder, author of Sugarless

Winner of the 2012 PEN/Ackerley Prize for Memoir

A haunted memoir on the nature of belonging and the lure of escape

Duncan Fallowell sets out to odd corners of the world in pursuit of some extraordinary and improbable characters who were in most cases momentarily famous—or infamous—and then simply disappeared. The first to disappear is the author himself—to a ghostly hotel on a Mediterranean island. His subjects, though unmet or hardly met, live for the reader with remarkable vividness, such as the German artist who bought a large island in the Hebrides and vanished immediately afterward to the astonishment of its inhabitants. Fallowell tracks down the recluse who inspired Evelyn Waugh's creation Sebastian Flyte, the legendary love object of Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited, who wants both to forget the past and to cling to it. He even pursues the ultimate disappearance—the death of Princess Diana—and the miasma of shock, wonder and grief that followed, writing “Mystification is absolutely essential to our feeling of being alive.”

In these highly original adventures, How to Disappear winds through the eerie abyss that can open up between someone—or something—being both real and phantom.

“In Duncan Fallowell’s How to Disappear . . . travel and its chance encounters provide the pretext for pursuit of much more marginal figures: in ‘Who was Alastair Graham?’ he explores the post-Oxford life of Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford boyfriend in a way that throws light into dim corners of British social history. In ‘The Curious Case of Bapsy Pavry’, an Indian lady who became the Marchioness of Winchester and lived out a long widowhood in a Firbankian fantasy of social aspiration is chased down with a tenderly marveling mordancy that is a keynote of Fallowell’s brilliant and haunting book.”—Alan Hollinghurst, The Guardian

“British author, wit, and hipster Duncan Fallowell combines memoir, travel, and humor over three decades in How to Disappear. Aside from his own travel to remote places, the people who make themselves disappear are a daffy female aristocrat, a German eccentric who feared publicity, the real-life ‘Sebastian Flyte’ of Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh’s lover at Oxford), and the tragic and immortal Princess Diana. Readers who welcome an uncharted adventure are in for a treat.”—Jerry Rosco, author of Glenway Wescott Personally

Duncan Fallowell
writes novels, history, autobiography, travel, libretti, lyrics, and journalism. Most recently, he is author of the novel A History Of Facelifting and the travel book Going As Far As I Can. His essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a broad range of magazines and journals, including Vanity Fair, Playboy, The Paris Review, Esquire, Harper’s, GQ, The Times, The Guardian, and Prospect. He is based in London.


“In five dated yet beautifully crafted essays, Fallowell . . . mines some early trips he took for literary inspiration. . . . A delicious throwback memoir, writerly and rich.”
Kirkus Reviews

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June 2013
LC: 2012040153 PR
248 pp.   5 1/4 x 7 1/2

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ISBN 978-0-299-29240-9
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A trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press

“Polished jewels of consciousness, presented with this author's trademark mixture of profundity, wit and joyful naughtiness. They drink the elixir of loss, though with an eye fixed on the horizon.”
—Christopher Silvester, Daily Express

“A subtle, beautifully written, and often very funny example of autobiography by stealth. … [Fallowell's] account of Diana's funeral is far better than any other you will have read in what has become an overcrowded field.”
—Peter Parker, citation for the 2012 PEN/Ackerley Prize winner

Wisconsin edition for sale only in U.S. and dependencies, Canada, and the Philippines. Prior edition: Ditto Press, UK, 2011, Cloth, ISBN 0-956-79523-4


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Updated March 28, 2012

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